Sports Direct’s Ashley sues over French golf scheme

Sport Direct founder and Newcastle United football club owner Mike Ashley is to sue former business partner Tony Jimenez for £3m that he says the latter persuaded him to invest in a golf course scheme in France.

Ashley has gone to the High Court in London to allege that his former “trusted friend” and business associate Jimenez, a director at Ashley’s Newcastle United Premier League football club until 2008, persuaded him to invest the money in Les Bordes golf course near Orléans, 70 miles southwest of Paris, in a “deliberate fraud”, according to media reports today.

Jimenez sought the sum in order to “obtain and retain the money for himself”, the claim asserts, adding “Mr Jimenez was not soliciting a genuine investment from Mr Ashley,” the reports said.

“In consequence of transferring the investment sum to South Horizon [the consultancy owned by Mr Jimenez] out of his personal funds, Mr Ashley has suffered loss and damage, namely the said sum of £3m so transferred,” and seeks full return of the £3m together with interest, believed to be around £800,000.

In as a statement issued from Dubai, where he lives, Jimenez told Bloomberg News that Ashley’s claim was “fabricated and malicious” and added: “Mike Ashley will regret the day he embarked on this action.

“His claim is without foundation and his allegations are entirely untrue.”

‘Lurid headlines about colourful businessman’

Ashley will be a familiar face at the High Court in London, having recently spawned a spate of lurid headlines when he shrugged off a claim for £15m by former Sports Direct executive Jeff Blue who said that Ashley (pictured left) had promised him the money one drunken evening.

The court was regaled with tales that emerged of Ashley’s management style, which reportedly included regularly taking naps under the boardroom table and nights of drinking.

One such evening was described in court as having reached its apotheosis when Ashley vomited into the fireplace “to huge applause from his senior management team,” according to court papers.

Previous legal action against Jimenez by Dennis Wise

This is not the first time that Jimenez has been in legal hot water over Les Bordes golf club. In 2013 he was obliged to return a £500,000 investment to former footballer and Newcastle United executive Dennis Wise over an investment in the same scheme.

Finding in Wise’s favour, the judge ordered Jimenez to return all of Wise’s money, and saying that Jimenez had been “guilty of considerable obfuscation” concerning the money paid to him.


Eugene Costello
Eugene Costello has been a journalist for some 20 years, and has written for a wide variety of UK and international newspapers and magazines.

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